Archive for the ‘14-2 Chronicles’ Category

2 Chronicles 6:12-42 (Part 4 of 4)

Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication

Opening Illustration/Comments

Have you ever heard the saying, “Your letting _______(fill in the name) live rent-free in your head!”? Who is it that is living rent-free in your head? Fill in the blank in the statement above. Is there someone against whom you are holding a grudge?

There are those we all know in our lifetimes that hold grudges against other people for something that happened years ago. They are the type that once you get on their list, you stay on this list and never come off. Sometimes, it is one person who is forever your grudge. Sometimes, you have many people on the list. Sometimes, you may get on a grudge list because you know somebody on the grudge holder’s list. Sometimes, we are on somebody’s grudge list without even knowing it ourselves.

That’s what struck me this morning as I read through this passage for the final time before we move on to the next passage. It struck me where Solomon says, “Who has never sinned?” That’s where holding grudges against another person that just seems incompatible with what the Bible tells us about ourselves, much less others. My ex-wife was one of the grudge holder kind of people. Once you got on her list, you never got off. If you outright hurt her or she perceived an offense from you, you got on the list. I was number one on her list, particularly after we had our final split up in our tumultuous marriage. The remainder of her life was consumed with hating me and anyone who associated with me. If people that we knew in common were friends with me, they were no longer her friends. They were on the list too! Because of the grudgeholding and once you are on the list you never get off the list mentality, she ended up living a reclusive life by the time she was in her late 40’s because there were so many people on the list. This bitterness, I have no doubt, shortened her life to the point that she passed away five years ago at the age of 55. Are you like my ex-wife, does your hatred for someone, for any real or perceived offenses, consume your life?

The thing that Solomon’s statement struck a chord with me was that none of us can claim any moral high ground even with the worst sinner. We might not be sinning as much as someone else, but we still sin. We sin daily. And when we stand before God, even without holding grudges against someone else, we are convicted and punishable to Hell on our own merits. When we stand before God, it is not the number and frequency of sins that matters, it is the fact that we sin! Think about that! Some of us think that just because we insulate ourselves from known sinful activities that we are somehow morally superior to others, but that don’t mean jack before God. Before God, even our sinful thoughts that were never acted upon are part of the evidence against us. We will be convicted to Hell by the Righteous Judge without our Mediator, Jesus Christ. It is only when we accept Christ as our Savior through believing that He died for our sins and that He is of one and the same essence as God that we can stand before the Father in righteousness.

Even when we have a true salvation experience and accept Christ as our eternal Savior, we still sin. That’s why Christ sends the Holy Spirit to indwell in us to convict us of our sin habits. Some sins are easy to turn away from through the Spirit’s guidance. Some sins, it will take a lifetime for us to give them up to the Holy Spirit. Is holding grudges that pet sin that’s the hardest for you to give up?

Think about it. If we are to be realistic about our own human condition, we are sinners each and every day. And it is only through the grace of Jesus Christ and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit that we stand before God and not be consumed and condemned to Hell. We have been forgiven. Why, then, can we not forgive others? Should not we as Christians be the quickest ones on the planet to forgive – because we KNOW we have been forgiven through Christ’s sacrifice. Who has not sinned? That is a profound statement when we think about holding grudges against others or maintaining a list of people that we will not associate with because of some real or some perceived offense. It takes too much work to maintain our grudges. Let us be true to the Savior that we worship and throw away our lists.

It is that idea of holding grudges in light of Solomon’s question, “Who has not sinned?” that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 6:12-42. Let’s read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

12 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the entire community of Israel, and he lifted his hands in prayer. 13 Now Solomon had made a bronze platform 7 1⁄2 feet long, 7 1⁄2 feet wide, and 4 1⁄2 feet high[a] and had placed it at the center of the Temple’s outer courtyard. He stood on the platform, and then he knelt in front of the entire community of Israel and lifted his hands toward heaven. 14 He prayed,

“O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in all of heaven and earth. You keep your covenant and show unfailing love to all who walk before you in wholehearted devotion. 15 You have kept your promise to your servant David, my father. You made that promise with your own mouth, and with your own hands you have fulfilled it today.

16 “And now, O Lord, God of Israel, carry out the additional promise you made to your servant David, my father. For you said to him, ‘If your descendants guard their behavior and faithfully follow my Law as you have done, one of them will always sit on the throne of Israel.’ 17 Now, O Lord, God of Israel, fulfill this promise to your servant David.

18 “But will God really live on earth among people? Why, even the highest heavens cannot contain you. How much less this Temple I have built! 19 Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you. 20 May you watch over this Temple day and night, this place where you have said you would put your name. May you always hear the prayers I make toward this place. 21 May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive.

22 “If someone wrongs another person and is required to take an oath of innocence in front of your altar at this Temple, 23 then hear from heaven and judge between your servants—the accuser and the accused. Pay back the guilty as they deserve. Acquit the innocent because of their innocence.

24 “If your people Israel are defeated by their enemies because they have sinned against you, and if they turn back and acknowledge your name and pray to you here in this Temple, 25 then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and return them to this land you gave to them and to their ancestors.

26 “If the skies are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and if they pray toward this Temple and acknowledge your name and turn from their sins because you have punished them, 27 then hear from heaven and forgive the sins of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them to follow the right path, and send rain on your land that you have given to your people as their special possession.

28 “If there is a famine in the land or a plague or crop disease or attacks of locusts or caterpillars, or if your people’s enemies are in the land besieging their towns—whatever disaster or disease there is— 29 and if your people Israel pray about their troubles or sorrow, raising their hands toward this Temple, 30 then hear from heaven where you live, and forgive. Give your people what their actions deserve, for you alone know each human heart. 31 Then they will fear you and walk in your ways as long as they live in the land you gave to our ancestors.

32 “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands when they hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 33 then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. They, too, will know that this Temple I have built honors your name.

34 “If your people go out where you send them to fight their enemies, and if they pray to you by turning toward this city you have chosen and toward this Temple I have built to honor your name, 35 then hear their prayers from heaven and uphold their cause.

36 “If they sin against you—and who has never sinned?—you might become angry with them and let their enemies conquer them and take them captive to a foreign land far away or near. 37 But in that land of exile, they might turn to you in repentance and pray, ‘We have sinned, done evil, and acted wickedly.’ 38 If they turn to you with their whole heart and soul in the land of their captivity and pray toward the land you gave to their ancestors—toward this city you have chosen, and toward this Temple I have built to honor your name— 39 then hear their prayers and their petitions from heaven where you live, and uphold their cause. Forgive your people who have sinned against you.

40 “O my God, may your eyes be open and your ears attentive to all the prayers made to you in this place.

41

“And now arise, O Lord God, and enter your resting place,

    along with the Ark, the symbol of your power.

May your priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation;

    may your loyal servants rejoice in your goodness.

42

O Lord God, do not reject the king you have anointed.

    Remember your unfailing love for your servant David.”.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that in his prayer, Solomon underscores the fact that God stands ready to hear His people, to forgive their sins, and to restore their relationship with Him. God is waiting and listening for our confessions or guilt over our sins and our commitment to turn away from them and to obey Him. He hears us when we pour out our needs and problems to Him and is ready to forgive us and restore us to fellowship with Him. In 6:36, Solomon says, “who has never sinned?”. The Bible is clear that no one is exempt from sin, not even God’s appointed kings such as David and Solomon. Sin is a condition that we all share and we all should acknowledge it as Solomon did. When we realize we have sinned, we should quickly as God for forgiveness and restoration. Knowing we have this sin nature that causes us to sin daily, it should keep us close to God so that we can seek His guidance and strength in overcoming our sin tendencies.

As well, realizing that we have no moral superiority over anyone else before God because of everyone’s sin nature, we should then be more sympathetic to those whose sins have affected or hurt us in some way. How can we hold grudges against another person because their sins hurt us, when, we are sinners daily ourselves? Our lack of sympathetic forgiveness to others who have hurt us then rises to the sin of pride just as much as what they did to hurt us was a sin.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is the idea of “blessed are the peacemakers” that I will be preaching about this coming Sunday. Holding grudges is not about making peace. Holding grudges is about being in a state of war all the time with the thought of what a person did to you – real or perceived. Peacemakers are those that make peace. To make means that we take action. We take action to make peace. If there is someone against whom you have a conflict we must (1) realize that we are sinners ourselves and (2) we are called by Christ to MAKE peace. We are to lose our pride about our self-defined moral high ground and realize that we are just a sinner ourselves capable of making huge blunders and commit daily sins of varying magnitudes of ripples on daily basis. And, then, Christ calls us then to make peace. That means we seek to reconcile, truly reconcile, with those who have hurt us – in both real and perceived ways. Peacemakers go after peace. They seek to end wars between themselves and others. Jesus never said, “Blessed are the grudge holders!” He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers!” That means that we make the first step to achieve peace, even when our pride tells us that the other person must seek forgiveness from us. Half the time, people do not even know they have hurt you. Thus, peacemakers take action. They go after peace, not wait for it.

The place we start is asking what Solomon asked, “Who has not sinned?”. That’s where we must start. Because that question pierces our balloon of pride. That’s where we must start to become a peacemaker.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 6:12-42 (Part 3 of 4)

Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication

Opening Illustration/Comments

Everybody always thinks that a pastor has his life all together. No problems, right? Even us pastors are like any other Christian; we are still maturing in Christ day by day, mistake by mistake, victory by victory, lesson learned by lesson learned. One of the areas of my spiritual life that I still struggle with is my personal times of prayer. I can pray for others easily. I can pray public prayers on demand (which is a growth spot for me over the last 2-3 years). However, I struggle to find time to have specific prayers on my own time. Don’t get me wrong, I talk with God about things pretty much hourly every day. He is just part of everything that I do and there is this undercurrent of conversation between Him and me that goes on throughout the day each day. However, like I said, I struggle with personal, specific, set aside, doing nothing else prayer time.

One of the excuses I use is that I use my two-hour walks from 5am-7am as communion time with the Lord. Lamar is quiet and dark for 45 minutes of the walk (right now in summer) and quiet and newly light for an hour and 15 minutes of my walk. And, yes, I do use this time to talk to the Lord about a wide variety of topics, many of which have to do with what to do about situations at the church I serve. It is during this time that I often work through anger at those situations. It is during this time that I often cry out to Him about every pastor’s feelings of inadequacy for the task He has called each of us to. It is during these times that He makes a thought pop into my head from the Holy Spirit as to the answers to my prayer discussions with Him. There are only a few cars to deal with at this time of the morning on my usual routes around town. I talk to Him about my sermons. I talk to Him about non-church related stuff, too. But much of it is about church. But, again, as I said before, even this time of communion with the Lord while I am walking is while I am doing something else. My discussions may get interrupted by thoughts such as “watch out for that mud puddle” or “I hope that barking dog is behind a fence” or “I wish I had something to kill all the sweat bees that live in all these dogwood trees around town that buzz around your head just after dawn.” A constantly circling and dive bombing sweat bee will break your concentration quickly. Then, you have to take your hat off and swat in circular motions around your head to get them to quit buzzing you. I am sure when that occurs and people see me swatting at something that they cannot see from a distance, it probably looks like I am challenged in some way. But I digress. Just know, I hate the sweat bees.

Thus, as you can see, it’s not like I don’t have conversations with God virtually all day and I have two hours set aside each day during my early morning walks Sundays-Thursdays where I talk to God a lot. However, where I fall short is having that uninterrupted prayer time, that time of prayer where you are doing nothing else but that. No jogging or walking. No doing daily tasks at the church. No doing personal tasks at home. Just straight-up prayer only. Maybe, it seems self-centered to have specific time set aside for bringing our petitions to Him in prayer. Maybe, it’s that it still, after all these years of being a Christ follower, it still feels a bit awkward to have personal, nothing else time for prayer. It is much easier for me to pray for somebody else and offer public prayers on demand or offer prepared public prayers with heartfelt sincerity believing that God will answer the petition in the way that He will. But that personal me time, with nothing else going on but me praying to the Lord, I am still a work-in-progress on that.

It is that idea committing to being better about specific times, of nothing else but prayer, prayer time that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 6:12-42. Let’s read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

12 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the entire community of Israel, and he lifted his hands in prayer. 13 Now Solomon had made a bronze platform 7 1⁄2 feet long, 7 1⁄2 feet wide, and 4 1⁄2 feet high[a] and had placed it at the center of the Temple’s outer courtyard. He stood on the platform, and then he knelt in front of the entire community of Israel and lifted his hands toward heaven. 14 He prayed,

“O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in all of heaven and earth. You keep your covenant and show unfailing love to all who walk before you in wholehearted devotion. 15 You have kept your promise to your servant David, my father. You made that promise with your own mouth, and with your own hands you have fulfilled it today.

16 “And now, O Lord, God of Israel, carry out the additional promise you made to your servant David, my father. For you said to him, ‘If your descendants guard their behavior and faithfully follow my Law as you have done, one of them will always sit on the throne of Israel.’ 17 Now, O Lord, God of Israel, fulfill this promise to your servant David.

18 “But will God really live on earth among people? Why, even the highest heavens cannot contain you. How much less this Temple I have built! 19 Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you. 20 May you watch over this Temple day and night, this place where you have said you would put your name. May you always hear the prayers I make toward this place. 21 May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive.

22 “If someone wrongs another person and is required to take an oath of innocence in front of your altar at this Temple, 23 then hear from heaven and judge between your servants—the accuser and the accused. Pay back the guilty as they deserve. Acquit the innocent because of their innocence.

24 “If your people Israel are defeated by their enemies because they have sinned against you, and if they turn back and acknowledge your name and pray to you here in this Temple, 25 then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and return them to this land you gave to them and to their ancestors.

26 “If the skies are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and if they pray toward this Temple and acknowledge your name and turn from their sins because you have punished them, 27 then hear from heaven and forgive the sins of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them to follow the right path, and send rain on your land that you have given to your people as their special possession.

28 “If there is a famine in the land or a plague or crop disease or attacks of locusts or caterpillars, or if your people’s enemies are in the land besieging their towns—whatever disaster or disease there is— 29 and if your people Israel pray about their troubles or sorrow, raising their hands toward this Temple, 30 then hear from heaven where you live, and forgive. Give your people what their actions deserve, for you alone know each human heart. 31 Then they will fear you and walk in your ways as long as they live in the land you gave to our ancestors.

32 “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands when they hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 33 then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. They, too, will know that this Temple I have built honors your name.

34 “If your people go out where you send them to fight their enemies, and if they pray to you by turning toward this city you have chosen and toward this Temple I have built to honor your name, 35 then hear their prayers from heaven and uphold their cause.

36 “If they sin against you—and who has never sinned?—you might become angry with them and let their enemies conquer them and take them captive to a foreign land far away or near. 37 But in that land of exile, they might turn to you in repentance and pray, ‘We have sinned, done evil, and acted wickedly.’ 38 If they turn to you with their whole heart and soul in the land of their captivity and pray toward the land you gave to their ancestors—toward this city you have chosen, and toward this Temple I have built to honor your name— 39 then hear their prayers and their petitions from heaven where you live, and uphold their cause. Forgive your people who have sinned against you.

40 “O my God, may your eyes be open and your ears attentive to all the prayers made to you in this place.

41

“And now arise, O Lord God, and enter your resting place,

    along with the Ark, the symbol of your power.

May your priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation;

    may your loyal servants rejoice in your goodness.

42

O Lord God, do not reject the king you have anointed.

    Remember your unfailing love for your servant David.”.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that Solomon led the people in prayer. He asked God to hear their prayers concerning a variety of situations. He prayed about crime (6:22-23), enemy attacks (6:24-25), drought (6:26-27), famine (6:28-31), foreigners among them (6:32-33), war (6:34-35), and sin (6:36-39). That’s quite a list of things for a single prayer, but God is concerned with all these things that we face in our fallen world and much more. He is interested in everything we face including the difficult situations that we bring upon ourselves. He wants us to bring it all to Him in prayer. We must remember that He does hear our prayers and even the groanings of our soul. Therefore, even in the midst of the most extreme circumstances, you can trust that the Lord hears your prayers.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is to think about my “nothing else but prayer” prayer time similar to my exercise commitment. When I started walking early each morning back in the day. It was something that I had to set aside time for when I knew I would do it. Setting the alarm for early in the morning and getting up to turn the alarm off somewhere outside my bedroom was a start. Once you’re up and walk to another room to turn your phone alarm off, you up and so you get your jogging clothes on and you go. But if I had decided to do these walks after work, I would never do ‘em. When I get home from work, the tendency is to get involved in something around the house or just flop on the couch – not put on gym shorts and t-shirt and turn around go right back out of the house for two hours. Just wasn’t going to happen.

I need to find a 15-30 minute window each day where I know I will do it that I set aside time for “nothing but prayer” prayer time. Do you have this same struggle? Let us remember that as the passage analysis states, the Lord wants our prayers. We shouldn’t feel self-centered about it. He is a personal God as well the God of the universe. He knows us intimately already. He knows already our sorrows, joys, challenges, victories, all of it. What we should remember though that God is not a vending machine for our personal desires during our “nothing by prayer” prayer time or any time. We must pray for God’s will in all the petitions we bring to Him. We must ask Him to change our heart if it needs changing on a subject. We must ask Him to confirm in our heart that we are heading in the right direction on something. We must ask Him how to handle conflict situations in ways that honor Him. It’s all about changing us toward His way of thinking not the other way around. But, yes, He wants us to have these intimate times with Him. Please here me, I am not saying that our ongoing conversations with the Lord are not valuable or not as valuable as specific times of prayer. I am not saying that. We need both. God loves it when we make Him part of our every minute of our every day. He wants the ongoing conversation. He wants to be a part of every moment and every thought we have. All I am saying is, is that we need to also have specific times each day where we block everything out and do nothing else but prayer. We need that “nothing but prayer” prayer time.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 6:12-42 (Part 2 of 4)

Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication

Opening Illustration/Comments

A long time ago before September 11, 2001, I was able to take a weekend trip to New York City. I guess this would have been like in 1998 or 1999 sometime. I did all the sightseeing stuff. Statue of Liberty and things like that. That weekend was the opening weekend of the Broadway season there was this big street performance on this huge stage in Time Square. I was able to be there for that amid this sea of people watching each theatre to little bits of what they first productions of the year were going to be. It apparently was an annual thing in New York at the time so there was so many people. I gave me the impression of what it would be like to be in Time Square on New Year’s Eve (except this was during the day). I got to eat some pretty cool local places. I got to go to Rockefeller Center and take a tour of NBC’s studios there. I got to go to the Empire State Building and marvel at its architecture and go to its iconic observation patio. But the highlight of the trip was going to the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. To stand below these buildings and their 107 stories was awe inspiring to this country boy from Upstate South Carolina. And the World Trade Centers had this express elevator for tourists that takes you from the lobby to the observation lounge on the top floor in less than a minute. And unlike the Empire State Building where the observation patio is outside, the observation lounge in the World Trade Center was completely indoors. I guess for safety reasons or whatever. It was a memorable thing. What makes it memorable more so than any other place in New York City that I visited that weekend is to think in just two or three years after I visited that place, it is now gone without a trace. This structure that was so mighty in the New York skyline. No longer there at all. Replaced, sure. But the original two buildings. Gone now without a trace.

It is the same with reading about Solomon’s Temple. You read about how magnificent it was. You read in Scripture about that. Based on the descriptions in the Bible it was magnificent. It was a commanding structure over the Jerusalem skyline. It was of course built to honor God so in David and Solomon’s minds, it HAD to be magnificent and commanding. It was beautiful and ornate. It the best of engineering and construction at the time. It was the crown jewel of Jerusalem. But it is gone without a trace now. The only thing that remains of it in this the 21st century is the western wall of the Temple grounds, also known now as the Wailing Wall. In all its magnificence and grandeur, it is nothing but a ruin now. It was built to honor God but even then it was made by human hands and thus was not going to be eternal. It was built to honor God but even then it cannot and could not capture the wonder, the grandeur, the majesty, the all-powerful significance, the omniscience, the omnipotence, the glory of God. We can never build anything that will give God the glory He deserves.

Even the grandest things we build for secular reasons or for holy reasons are temporary. When talking of holy structures, in there temporariness, they are thus not fully worthy of the thing they praise, God. God is not temporary. No matter how grand we build something to God, we are limited by our human knowledge as to His greatness. So, even our grandest homage to God is incomplete. But even though the Temple was grand to us, it was not grand enough to capture the majesty of God. But even though that was true, God allowed His presence to be part of this feeble attempt to give Him the glory that He deserves. He gave His approval to it by His presence there. He gave His approval to it though it was an imperfect attempt to give Him full glory. He gave His approval to it though it was made by us who because of sin are limited, because of sin we are temporary minded, because of sin we are imperfect. He made it holy and perfect by His presence.

It is that idea of understanding the grandeur and perfection of God that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 6:12-42. Let’s read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

12 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the entire community of Israel, and he lifted his hands in prayer. 13 Now Solomon had made a bronze platform 7 1⁄2 feet long, 7 1⁄2 feet wide, and 4 1⁄2 feet high[a] and had placed it at the center of the Temple’s outer courtyard. He stood on the platform, and then he knelt in front of the entire community of Israel and lifted his hands toward heaven. 14 He prayed,

“O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in all of heaven and earth. You keep your covenant and show unfailing love to all who walk before you in wholehearted devotion. 15 You have kept your promise to your servant David, my father. You made that promise with your own mouth, and with your own hands you have fulfilled it today.

16 “And now, O Lord, God of Israel, carry out the additional promise you made to your servant David, my father. For you said to him, ‘If your descendants guard their behavior and faithfully follow my Law as you have done, one of them will always sit on the throne of Israel.’ 17 Now, O Lord, God of Israel, fulfill this promise to your servant David.

18 “But will God really live on earth among people? Why, even the highest heavens cannot contain you. How much less this Temple I have built! 19 Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you. 20 May you watch over this Temple day and night, this place where you have said you would put your name. May you always hear the prayers I make toward this place. 21 May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive.

22 “If someone wrongs another person and is required to take an oath of innocence in front of your altar at this Temple, 23 then hear from heaven and judge between your servants—the accuser and the accused. Pay back the guilty as they deserve. Acquit the innocent because of their innocence.

24 “If your people Israel are defeated by their enemies because they have sinned against you, and if they turn back and acknowledge your name and pray to you here in this Temple, 25 then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and return them to this land you gave to them and to their ancestors.

26 “If the skies are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and if they pray toward this Temple and acknowledge your name and turn from their sins because you have punished them, 27 then hear from heaven and forgive the sins of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them to follow the right path, and send rain on your land that you have given to your people as their special possession.

28 “If there is a famine in the land or a plague or crop disease or attacks of locusts or caterpillars, or if your people’s enemies are in the land besieging their towns—whatever disaster or disease there is— 29 and if your people Israel pray about their troubles or sorrow, raising their hands toward this Temple, 30 then hear from heaven where you live, and forgive. Give your people what their actions deserve, for you alone know each human heart. 31 Then they will fear you and walk in your ways as long as they live in the land you gave to our ancestors.

32 “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands when they hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 33 then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. They, too, will know that this Temple I have built honors your name.

34 “If your people go out where you send them to fight their enemies, and if they pray to you by turning toward this city you have chosen and toward this Temple I have built to honor your name, 35 then hear their prayers from heaven and uphold their cause.

36 “If they sin against you—and who has never sinned?—you might become angry with them and let their enemies conquer them and take them captive to a foreign land far away or near. 37 But in that land of exile, they might turn to you in repentance and pray, ‘We have sinned, done evil, and acted wickedly.’ 38 If they turn to you with their whole heart and soul in the land of their captivity and pray toward the land you gave to their ancestors—toward this city you have chosen, and toward this Temple I have built to honor your name— 39 then hear their prayers and their petitions from heaven where you live, and uphold their cause. Forgive your people who have sinned against you.

40 “O my God, may your eyes be open and your ears attentive to all the prayers made to you in this place.

41

“And now arise, O Lord God, and enter your resting place,

    along with the Ark, the symbol of your power.

May your priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation;

    may your loyal servants rejoice in your goodness.

42

O Lord God, do not reject the king you have anointed.

    Remember your unfailing love for your servant David.”.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that Solomon marveled that God, the maker of the universe who is vast, all powerful and supreme above all things, would be willing to allow His presence to be in a Temple made by man and to be among sinful human beings. God cannot be contained by anything that we build as humans. That He would deign to allow a fingertip of His total magnificence to be manifest in the Temple we must remember how amazing that is. Then, think of how God allows His Spirit to live in us as those who have accepted Christ as our Savior is even more amazing. We also marvel at the fact that God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, lived among us in our dirty, sinful world filling with dirty, sinful people was to reveal His great love for us. Jesus was God living among us. Though He is great, He was present among us in the flesh. Although He is the ruler and maker of the universe in which we operate, He wants to live within us through the Holy Spirit and know us personally. Mighty and personal all at the same time. Maker of the Universe and magnificence beyond compare but willing to get down and dirty with us personally.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is to understand the vastness of God, to understand how far beyond true comprehension He is to us. Let that sink in for a minute. God is the Supreme Being above all things. He has all knowledge. There is nothing He does not know for He created all that there is to know. He is eternal and everlasting. He pre-existed time and space. He started into motion the time and space plane in which we live. He is above and beyond. He is the I AM. He is perfection. He is holiness. He is purity. It is that grandeur that we should be in awe of each and every day.

We must realize that we are temporary. We are fleeting. We are imperfect. Even the things that we build to honor our God are imperfect and fleeting and temporary. This makes everything we build and everything we do to honor Him insufficient to honor Him in the way that He deserves. Let us remember that the next time that we begin to get demanding when it comes to God. Help us to remember the proper relationship of ourselves before God. He is the Creator and we are the created. He is not our puppet. He is not our vending machine. He is magnificence beyond anything we can think of. And then there’s us. When you think how we sometimes get very demanding with God, in comparison to who He is, it can be truly humbling.

Yet, at the same time that He is all this vastness and greatness and limitlessness that I just described, He wants to be present with us personally. He wants to dwell in our hearts. He knows us personally whether we recognize His existence or not. He wants to be in relationship with us. He was to allow His presence to manifest itself in our souls. Even though we are temporary, imperfect and fleeting, the Ruler of the Universe wants to know us. He cares for us so much that He came to the world in the flesh to live among us and die for our sins. He cares for us so much that when we believe in Jesus, He sends His Spirit to live in us. Everything else is temporary and fleeting compared to that. Nothing we can do can give Him enough glory for reaching down to be with us and reaching down to live in us. We can’t built a structure that is glorious enough. We can build a structure to last long enough. We can’t do anything that can give Him the glory He deserves for what He has done for us personally much less the glory He deserves just for being God!

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 6:12-42 (Part 1 of 4)

Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication

Opening Illustration/Comments

My greatest athletic achievement, sad to say, occurred when I was in middle school, in the 7th grade, in Anderson, SC. I was a member of the Trinity United Methodist Church 12 & Under basketball team that year. We won the church league championship that year. On that team, Eddie Yount and me, were the most talented players and we were the unquestioned leaders among the players on the team. We would score 90% of the points of our team each and every game. The other players who were less coordinated and less skilled than Eddie and me would simply try to get us the ball so one or both of us could make something happen. If they got in trouble in a corner or in a press on the court, they would look for one of us to get the ball to. Everybody knew, even our coach, that Eddie and I carried the team. We were his star players.

However, Coach Middleton worked us hard all of us, including me and Eddie. Coach Middleton was a sweet guy outside our practices but when we walked on the court for practice, he was all business. It took a few practices for all of us to figure that out, especially Eddie and me. We already knew from pick up games with the other guys that would be on our team that we were the best players. We knew we were going to start and would not be bench warmer. Coach Middleton didn’t care though. He put us all through the paces. He exercised us hard. He made us run plays OVER and OVER and OVER again. If we didn’t get them perfect, he would make us run them again. Defensive sets were run OVER and OVER and OVER again to get our reactions to what the other team was doing to become second nature. And, early on, he was hardest on Eddie and me. He knew we would be the ones to carry the team, so he hammered us harder about perfection than he did the others. It was during those pre-season and in-season practices, he established early on and throughout the season that he was the boss of the team, not me, and not Eddie. Even we, who were the ones to be counted on for most of the points and the best defense, were subject to Coach Middleton’s authority over the team. Back in those days, it wasn’t about making kids feel warm and fuzzy inside. In those days, it was about building character through the tough things that happen in sports and about teaching submission to those in authority over you. Eddie and I could have run away with the team so Coach Middleton had to establish his authority over us first.

Eddie and I didn’t like it at first – him being toughest on us more so than the other guys. However, after we got into the season and we started winning, we began to see that there was all a point to Coach Middleton’s toughness. We were tougher than other teams. We had better endurance than other teams. Funny how you can remember the details of your championship season (even if the only one you had was when you were 12! LOL!). The games we lost that year were because we did not observe the disciplined approach to offense and defense that Coach Middleton instilled in us. When we did, we won. By the time we got to the tournament that year, we were primed for our best basketball. We blew through the tournament’s first two rounds, betting the first two teams by 18 points and 12 points respectively. Then, in the championship game, we were going up against our rivals from Boulevard Baptist. They were our rivals because we all knew each other from school. We were all buddies. So boys being boys, you want to beat your best friends, right? They had beaten us during the regular season. They were just as good as us. So it was going to be a tough game. We won it by 8 points by the end. But it was Coach Middleton’s insistence on us listening to him and running the plays that he called and exactly as we practiced them that won us the game. When we submitted to his authority and didn’t try to be superstars trying to do everything ourselves, we won.

It is that idea of submitting to a higher authority that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 6:12-42. Let’s read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

12 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the entire community of Israel, and he lifted his hands in prayer. 13 Now Solomon had made a bronze platform 7 1⁄2 feet long, 7 1⁄2 feet wide, and 4 1⁄2 feet high[a] and had placed it at the center of the Temple’s outer courtyard. He stood on the platform, and then he knelt in front of the entire community of Israel and lifted his hands toward heaven. 14 He prayed,

“O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in all of heaven and earth. You keep your covenant and show unfailing love to all who walk before you in wholehearted devotion. 15 You have kept your promise to your servant David, my father. You made that promise with your own mouth, and with your own hands you have fulfilled it today.

16 “And now, O Lord, God of Israel, carry out the additional promise you made to your servant David, my father. For you said to him, ‘If your descendants guard their behavior and faithfully follow my Law as you have done, one of them will always sit on the throne of Israel.’ 17 Now, O Lord, God of Israel, fulfill this promise to your servant David.

18 “But will God really live on earth among people? Why, even the highest heavens cannot contain you. How much less this Temple I have built! 19 Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you. 20 May you watch over this Temple day and night, this place where you have said you would put your name. May you always hear the prayers I make toward this place. 21 May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive.

22 “If someone wrongs another person and is required to take an oath of innocence in front of your altar at this Temple, 23 then hear from heaven and judge between your servants—the accuser and the accused. Pay back the guilty as they deserve. Acquit the innocent because of their innocence.

24 “If your people Israel are defeated by their enemies because they have sinned against you, and if they turn back and acknowledge your name and pray to you here in this Temple, 25 then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and return them to this land you gave to them and to their ancestors.

26 “If the skies are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and if they pray toward this Temple and acknowledge your name and turn from their sins because you have punished them, 27 then hear from heaven and forgive the sins of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them to follow the right path, and send rain on your land that you have given to your people as their special possession.

28 “If there is a famine in the land or a plague or crop disease or attacks of locusts or caterpillars, or if your people’s enemies are in the land besieging their towns—whatever disaster or disease there is— 29 and if your people Israel pray about their troubles or sorrow, raising their hands toward this Temple, 30 then hear from heaven where you live, and forgive. Give your people what their actions deserve, for you alone know each human heart. 31 Then they will fear you and walk in your ways as long as they live in the land you gave to our ancestors.

32 “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands when they hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 33 then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. They, too, will know that this Temple I have built honors your name.

34 “If your people go out where you send them to fight their enemies, and if they pray to you by turning toward this city you have chosen and toward this Temple I have built to honor your name, 35 then hear their prayers from heaven and uphold their cause.

36 “If they sin against you—and who has never sinned?—you might become angry with them and let their enemies conquer them and take them captive to a foreign land far away or near. 37 But in that land of exile, they might turn to you in repentance and pray, ‘We have sinned, done evil, and acted wickedly.’ 38 If they turn to you with their whole heart and soul in the land of their captivity and pray toward the land you gave to their ancestors—toward this city you have chosen, and toward this Temple I have built to honor your name— 39 then hear their prayers and their petitions from heaven where you live, and uphold their cause. Forgive your people who have sinned against you.

40 “O my God, may your eyes be open and your ears attentive to all the prayers made to you in this place.

41

“And now arise, O Lord God, and enter your resting place,

    along with the Ark, the symbol of your power.

May your priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation;

    may your loyal servants rejoice in your goodness.

42

O Lord God, do not reject the king you have anointed.

    Remember your unfailing love for your servant David.”.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that Solomon knelt before God publicly. It was and is unusual for a king or head of state to kneel before someone else in front of his own people, because kneeling meant submitting to a higher authority. Solomon demonstrated his great love and reverence for God by kneeling before Him. His action showed that he acknowledged God as the ultimate authority, the ultimate king, and it set an example for his people.

Life Application

I think there are two takeaways for us today. First, no matter how talented you are. No matter how much money you have. No matter what. We are all subject to God’s authority. We must realize that and submit to that. He created us and the entire universe around us. Thus, we are subject to God. He may be tough on us at times, but He only wants the best for us. He expects obedience from us not because He is sadistic or controlling but rather because He knows what will happen to us when we don’t obey Him – danger, disaster, and loss. He wants us to live in the boundaries that He has established for us so that we can flourish in His blessings. Second, as parents, as leaders, as preachers, as those who lead others, showing that we submit to God in everything that we do sets a good example for the others. For me and Eddie on that 12 & Under team, when the others saw that we listened to and followed Coach Middleton’s instructions, it was easier for them to submit to his authority. It is the same for us as leaders in our submission to God. Let others see our dependence on God. Let others see us following His commands. Let them see us pray. Let them see us seeking God’s help when we are troubled. Let them the see us submit to the One and Only True Authority in our lives.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 6:1-11 (Part 2 of 2)

Solomon Praises the Lord

Opening Illustration/Comments

It was about January of 2017 after graduating from seminary 3 years earlier and being called by God to go into full time ministry 6 years before that, I came close to getting my first job in full-time ministry. It was a church in the north central Ohio town of Wooster. I came oh so close. I had two phone interviews. I had an onsite visit over a weekend. I think the job was mine to have all the way to the final interview. In the final interview, it included the founding pastor who was now the pastor emeritus of the church. There was one question he asked me about my desires for the future through this position that they had to offer. It was the question that changed the whole view of the interview council (which consisted of the pastor emeritus, the senior pastor, and the appointed elders of the church). Although I did not think much about it as the interview concluded that Sunday afternoon (after we had been there the whole weekend). We flew home to Greenville-Spartanburg thinking we had the job in the bag. However, days passed with no word. Finally, I was able to get the senior pastor on the phone and he said it was my answer to the final question that disqualified me from the final two candidates for the position. He said that after the answer that I gave that they did not think that this job would be what he called “a destination job” for me.

I was crushed. I had been preparing through leadership training at my home church, LifeSong Church in Lyman, SC, to be a pastoral leader since 2011. I had been to seminary and graduated in 2014. Three years after that, I had been still preparing by working part-time off and on at LifeSong. But nothing was happening as to a permanent full-time ministry position. Three long years. Then, there was this job in Wooster, OH that had my hopes so high. Only then to have them crushed by one answer to one question. Why would a church not want a person that wanted to excel and advance? That just baffled me. It then would be another full year before I finally got my break into full-time ministry in the position offered me at Calvary Church in Moline, IL. Even that job turned out to be less than what I had felt God called me to be. Although I learned a lot there about working full-time on a church staff and learned about different styles of administration than what I had built at LifeSong and learned about styles of staff management that was totally different from what I was used to, it still was not what God had called me toward which was full time ministry. Finally, in June 2019, the long and winding road to being a preaching/teaching pastor on a full-time basis came to fruition. For the last 13 months, I have been the solo pastor of Lamar United Methodist Church. It was an eight year road from the call from God to ministry to where I arrived last summer. The road was about being faithful to the road that the Lord has you on right now and staying the course as God tests your commitment to the call.

It is that idea of staying the course to reach God’s promises that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 6:1-11. Let’s read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

Chapter 6

1 Then Solomon prayed, “O Lord, you have said that you would live in a thick cloud of darkness. 2 Now I have built a glorious Temple for you, a place where you can live forever!”

3 Then the king turned around to the entire community of Israel standing before him and gave this blessing: 4 “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who has kept the promise he made to my father, David. For he told my father, 5 ‘From the day I brought my people out of the land of Egypt, I have never chosen a city among any of the tribes of Israel as the place where a Temple should be built to honor my name. Nor have I chosen a king to lead my people Israel. 6 But now I have chosen Jerusalem as the place for my name to be honored, and I have chosen David to be king over my people Israel.’”

7 Then Solomon said, “My father, David, wanted to build this Temple to honor the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 8 But the Lord told him, ‘You wanted to build the Temple to honor my name. Your intention is good, 9 but you are not the one to do it. One of your own sons will build the Temple to honor me.’

10 “And now the Lord has fulfilled the promise he made, for I have become king in my father’s place, and now I sit on the throne of Israel, just as the Lord promised. I have built this Temple to honor the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 11 There I have placed the Ark, which contains the covenant that the Lord made with the people of Israel.”.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see the completion and dedication of the Temple. The construction of the Temple took many years to accumulate the materials necessary to build it and then it took 7 years to construct. Sometimes, the Lord’s promises take a while to come to fruition. However, that does not mean that He has forgotten the promise made. His promises made are always His promises kept. We often must be patient because He is working out a plan so that when the promise is fulfilled we are ready to walk in it with full understanding of what God has done to prepare us for it and for what the promise kept really means.

Life Application

The takeaway that I think we have for today is that we have to be faithful in the field that the Lord has you plowing right now. We have to trust Him with when you move onto the next field to plow. We have to remember that the road may be long by our own standards and desires. There may be days that you feel like questioning the call altogether. But that’s where the trust comes in. Even when times are hard if the call is real, the call will stay with you. Even when times are hard, you can have trust that God will lead you to where He wants you to go. Even when you feel like giving up and feel foolish for having followed the call, keep trusting and keep plowing. I am in my call now. However, even when come into your calling, it’s not going to all be wine and roses from that point. Even when you are operating in your calling, there will be challenges and times when you will question the call even when you are in the call.

The key is staying the course. If God has called you to ministry, stay the course. Endure the long and winding road. There is a purpose in the long and winding road. I would not be where I am at right now if it were not for the time of learning at LifeSong, if it were not for my time in seminary, if it were not for the additional waiting after graduation, if it were not for the near miss in Ohio, if it were not for the year and half in Illinois. Now, the training from the Lord continues. Whatever may come next, Lamar is part of the process. Trust in the Lord. Trust His process. The process may be a long one, but the journey is part of the process. Each step in the process has meaning. Each step in the process has purpose. Each step has a reason. Each step has its own accomplishments for you and for others with whom you come in contact that accomplish something for the kingdom. Everything has meaning. God makes promises and God keeps them. I promise!

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 6:1-11 (Part 1 of 2)

Solomon Praises the Lord

Opening Illustration/Comments

As many of you know, although I grew up in the United Methodist Church, I was out of the church for a long time but when I returned to church just before my salvation and for the following 18 years after that, I went to churches that featured informal, non-structured, modern worship services. I grew up with responsive readings and specific things like the Gloria Patri and the Doxology and the Lord’s Prayer are all done in every service. Even recurring, non-weekly worship activities such as communion have prescribed forms and readings associated with them. Often, we sing these things and do responsive readings in these settings without grasping the gravity of what is being said. We have been trained to do these things so often that often they have lost all meaning.

Modern worship forms were and are a reaction against the traditions of traditional church. There are no responsive readings. There are no church colors. There are no acolytes. There are no robes. No bulletins with the order of service (but the tech team and the worship team and the preaching pastor have a timed out worship order that no one sees so that it seems there is a free flow to the service).

Modern worship though does have its own patterns or traditions though. This pattern has become so predictable that it has been humorously parodied in the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-egY6t9BMGI

However, in modern worship though there has been such a reaction against the traditions of traditional church that many of the things that were common knowledge about the Christian faith (that the traditions of the traditional church taught us) that no longer are known by several generations of churchgoers. So, that’s the thing that jumped out this morning about the passage this morning. Do we really understand what we are doing when we worship on Sunday mornings, whether it be in traditional or modern worship?

It is that idea of robotically going through worship that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 6:1-11. Let’s read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

Chapter 6

1 Then Solomon prayed, “O Lord, you have said that you would live in a thick cloud of darkness. 2 Now I have built a glorious Temple for you, a place where you can live forever!”

3 Then the king turned around to the entire community of Israel standing before him and gave this blessing: 4 “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who has kept the promise he made to my father, David. For he told my father, 5 ‘From the day I brought my people out of the land of Egypt, I have never chosen a city among any of the tribes of Israel as the place where a Temple should be built to honor my name. Nor have I chosen a king to lead my people Israel. 6 But now I have chosen Jerusalem as the place for my name to be honored, and I have chosen David to be king over my people Israel.’”

7 Then Solomon said, “My father, David, wanted to build this Temple to honor the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 8 But the Lord told him, ‘You wanted to build the Temple to honor my name. Your intention is good, 9 but you are not the one to do it. One of your own sons will build the Temple to honor me.’

10 “And now the Lord has fulfilled the promise he made, for I have become king in my father’s place, and now I sit on the throne of Israel, just as the Lord promised. I have built this Temple to honor the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 11 There I have placed the Ark, which contains the covenant that the Lord made with the people of Israel.”.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that as the people received Solomon’s blessing, they stood, as Solomon prayed. Solomon knelt as he prayed. Both standing and kneeling are acts of reverence. Acts of reverence make us feel more worshipful and they are public displays that we are honoring God. When you stand or kneel in church or at prayer, we should make these actions more than just robotic, habitual responses that have been prescribed by tradition. Let them be self-aware indications of our love for God.

Life Application

The takeaway that I think we have for today is that, regardless of what style of worship service that we go to, help us to remember why we are there. In modern worship settings, we can get stuck in traditions too. We can sing songs that are hits on Christian radio so often that they themselves can become traditions and we get upset when the worship team tries to introduce a song we have never heard before. In traditional church, we can sing hymns that we have sung a hundred times and fail to grasp the meaning of the song. We can sing these hymns without even thinking about what is written in the lyrics. We can sing the Gloria Patri and the Doxology on cue from the pianist. We can recite the Apostle’s Creed and not thinking about the meanings of our beliefs. We can recite the Lord’s Prayers without thinking about what the Lord was teaching us about how to pray when we pray on our own. Either way, modern or traditional, help us, oh Lord, to grasp the gravity of worship. We are worshiping the Almighty God.

We are worshiping the maker of all things. We are worshiping the Creator of the Universe and everything in it. We are taking time to stop from the madness of daily life to worship Him. When we worship in centuries old traditions, let us understand the significance of each element of the worship service. These elements point us toward honoring God for the grace that He has shown us through Jesus Christ. These elements developed over centuries and have survived not out of rote repetition but out the symbolic significance that the element represents in keying us toward Jesus Christ. In modern worship settings, help us to see Christ in simplicity. Help us to see a return to first century worship where it was solely about praising God for what He has done through Jesus Christ through us.

Bottom line, regardless of our worship style, let’s not just go through the motions on Sunday morning. Let us pray up before we walk into the sanctuary or worship center. Let us take time to clear the clutter of our week out of our mind before we enter the place of worship. Let us remember our day of salvation before we enter the halls or worship. Let us remember what we have been saved from – the pits of hell that we deserve were it not for the grace of God expresses through Christ’s redeeming act on the cross and His resurrection. Let us remember that we need to put all that other stuff of life out of our minds when we walk into the place of worship. Let us do the things that we repeat each week in either style of worship by thinking of what these things mean and signify. Let us kneel and understand what that means. Let us stand and understand what that means. Let us bow our heads and understand what that means. Let us recite things that are recited and hear and understand the words we recite. Let us sing and think about the words we are singing. Let us read Scripture and think about what it will mean in the sermon that follows its reading. Let us focus on every movement of the sermon by the pastor and grasp the concepts of Christian faith that the pastor is trying to get us to see and understand. Let’s rededicate ourselves to NOT just being at church in body but not in spirit. Let’s be there to worship God. Let’s be there to do that and not because (1) its what we are supposed to do on Sunday as a tradition in our family for generations and generations, or (2) it’s the cool place to be at the new stylish church. Let us be there, either place, to worship the one and only true God with all the focus, all the mental acuity, all the heart felt emotion, and all the concentration that we have available to us. Let’s be all-in when we walk in.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 5:1-14 (Part 2 of 2)

Solomon Praises the Lord

Opening Illustration/Comments

One of my wife’s favorite things is HGTV. She loves that channel as much as I love ESPN on Saturdays in the fall. She especially loves those shows on there about remodeling old houses and making them more modern. Sometimes the shows take what was once a dilapidated old house about fall in on itself and turn it into a showplace home. I actually love the one of the shows that is set in Pearl, MS, called “Home Town” with Erin and Ben Napier. Erin is the classic Southern girl who loves frilly things and gets super excited about beautifying a home – classic Southern girl. I love how excited she gets as her husband, Ben, and his team transform the ugliness, by gutting the house and reconstructing it from the studs and making it into a modern home. Erin then beautifies the home when Ben is done. He is always impressed with her eye for things that just make the design work. Ben does the tough work of reclaiming the house with new walls, new counters, new cabinets, new bathroom fixtures, and all that. Then, Erin brings in the beautifying of the house to make it a home. The things that they do with abandoned homes is often quite amazing. Homes that are either abandoned or stuck in the 50’s when they get a hold of them and then turn them in 2020’s chic.

I sometimes wish that I could get Erin and Ben to come visit the Pee Dee region of South Carolina where I live. There are an inordinate amount of old abandoned homes on these family farms that dot the landscape of the region. These family farms dot and dominate and the landscape of our region of the state. This region is where the bulk of the state’s agricultural production is centered. Lots of small towns. Lots of family farms. Some big. Some small. But lots of family farms. On a lot of them, you will see old family homes that have been abandoned after great grandma and great grandpa have passed on because the succeeding generations have built there own homes on the family farm. These structures are dying and rotting before your very eyes, day by day. These structures were once vibrant family homes that bustled with activity, I bet. That’s why I wish I could get Erin and Ben to take up residence in our region and do the stuff they do in and around Pearl, MS in our region of South Carolina.

They turn something old and unused into something new and useful. They turn something that’s just a house into a home filled with new things and a place to live. They turned a house into a home. They turn a shell into something filled with life. It is the same with us when we accept Christ as our Savior, our soul is transformed from a dark, dilapidated structure into a fully alive structure. When we accept Christ as our Savior, he comes in an revitalize the soul and makes it holy. Then, the presence of God in our lives, the Holy Spirit can come in dwell. Christ redeems the house like Ben. The Holy Spirit fills the soul with beauty and life like Erin. Without the redeeming work of Christ, the Holy Spirit cannot dwell there. It would be an impure soul without the redeeming work of Christ. Christ makes us holy and thus makes it possible for the Holy Spirit to permanently indwell us. Similarly, Erin could not do the work that she does within these reclaimed homes without the sanctifying work that Ben does to redeem the old home. Ben makes it possible for Erin to do her work just as Christ makes it possible for the Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

It is that idea making things holy and alive is what I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 5:1-14, once again. Let’s read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

Chapter 5

1 So Solomon finished all his work on the Temple of the Lord. Then he brought all the gifts his father, David, had dedicated—the silver, the gold, and the various articles—and he stored them in the treasuries of the Temple of God.

The Ark Brought to the Temple

2 Solomon then summoned to Jerusalem the elders of Israel and all the heads of tribes—the leaders of the ancestral families of Israel. They were to bring the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant to the Temple from its location in the City of David, also known as Zion. 3 So all the men of Israel assembled before the king at the annual Festival of Shelters, which is held in early autumn.[a]

4 When all the elders of Israel arrived, the Levites picked up the Ark. 5 The priests and Levites brought up the Ark along with the special tent[b] and all the sacred items that had been in it. 6 There, before the Ark, King Solomon and the entire community of Israel sacrificed so many sheep, goats, and cattle that no one could keep count!

7 Then the priests carried the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant into the inner sanctuary of the Temple—the Most Holy Place—and placed it beneath the wings of the cherubim. 8 The cherubim spread their wings over the Ark, forming a canopy over the Ark and its carrying poles. 9 These poles were so long that their ends could be seen from the Holy Place,[c] which is in front of the Most Holy Place, but not from the outside. They are still there to this day. 10 Nothing was in the Ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Mount Sinai,[d] where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel when they left Egypt.

11 Then the priests left the Holy Place. All the priests who were present had purified themselves, whether or not they were on duty that day. 12 And the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and all their sons and brothers—were dressed in fine linen robes and stood at the east side of the altar playing cymbals, lyres, and harps. They were joined by 120 priests who were playing trumpets. 13 The trumpeters and singers performed together in unison to praise and give thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, they raised their voices and praised the Lord with these words:

“He is good!

    His faithful love endures forever!”

At that moment a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. 14 The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of God.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that the Most Holy Place is just a room until God allows a physically visible manifestation of His presence to occupy the room. Did you notice that the priests were able to go into the Most Holy Place, the room designed to hold the Ark of the Covenant, that is within the Holy Place, the room in which the people of God could worship. The Most Holy Place after this date could be entered into only once a year by the High Priest, after an extensive cleansing ceremony, on the Day of Atonement. On this unique occasion, however, several priests had to enter the Most Holy Place to carry the Ark to its new resting place. Why the difference? The key to understanding this difference is the final verse of this passage. Prior to this moment, the presence of the Lord was not in the Most Holy Place. Prior to this moment, it was just a room. After this moment, it was an extension of God’s visible existence to His chosen people. The presence of the Lord in the room makes it holy ground. It is similar to what God does in our hearts. Our hearts are just a place, just an impure place, until Jesus comes in and reclaims it down to the studs and remakes its into a holy place where the Holy Spirit dwells in us. Now, our souls are a holy place where the Holy Spirit can live. His presence makes us holy.

Life Application

This passage has reminds us that without Jesus and the Holy Spirit, our souls are old dilapidated houses that stand empty and without use and without purpose and without a future. It is through the redemptive work of accepting Christ as our Savior that our souls are reclaimed from darkness and uselessness. We are made new through Christ. We are then made holy through Christ’s redemption such that we can have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us for eternity. Without this redemptive and restructuring work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, our house would eventually fall in upon itself because of the rotting of our souls. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit that makes us alive and useful for the future. Otherwise we are just a house with no purpose and no use and no future other than destruction from decay.

The Most Holy Place in the Temple was just a room until the presence of the Lord came into it. Then it became the Most Holy Place. It is like what Ben and Erin do in their projects. A old, abandoned empty house becomes a home full of life. The Most Holy Place is just a room without the presence of the Lord. Our souls are like that. They are dead, dilapidated existence of being without the presence of the Lord. Our souls are made holy by the presence of the Lord. So, there’s the thing. Every soul can be made holy, made alive, made a place of lively life, made a place where the Holy Spirit dwells. No matter what you have done. No matter if your house is decayed right now, it can be reclaimed and made a holy place full of life and full of the presence of the Lord through accepting, truly accepting, Jesus Christ as your Savior. Then, the Holy Spirit can come dwell in you and make you holy.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 5:1-14

The Ark Brought to the Temple

Opening Illustration/Comments

Have ever thought about how a church is just a building built by men? What makes a church holy ground? It is not the bricks chosen, or the metal framing, or the wood planks (depending on how your church was constructed). These bricks, the steel beams and metal framing, or these wood planks could have been used by someone else for some other purposes depending on when the orders were placed with the supplier who provided them. It is not the wiring that is holy for the same reason. If you church has pews or if your church has the more modern, more mobile and more easily configurable cushioned chairs, if your church is closed, these chairs don’t go to church equipment museums or retirement homes. Old pews are now often used by chic women to decorate their homes. They distress them and make them look old and they help give that farmhouse feel that’s all the rage these days. The chairs in the educational building’s classrooms are not in and of themselves holy and anything, any piece of personal or real property associated with our churches is not in and of itself holy. What makes these ordinary objects, then, any different from the very same things being used in non-church, secular settings?

The easiest, and most direct answer is absolutely nothing. There is nothing special about any of these things that they cannot be repurposed for some other use if a church dies and its property is sold, or a church remodels and replaces the older stuff. Even a pulpit, a baptismal font or pool (depending on your denominational leanings), all of these things in and of themselves can be repurposed and reused after their usefulness within a church is complete. Thus, then, what makes these things special when they are collected together in a church. The only thing that will make them special is the presence of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit in this place. When these things are brought together and the church is filled with people that are passionate, truly passionate, about two things – (1) deepening the relationship of God among the faithful members of that local fellowship of believers and (2) interacting with the world around the local fellowship such that new believers are constantly being drawn into the midst of the fellowship. And these two primary objectives of the church are not contradictory but rather complementary. In other words, the church exists to reach people for Christ and to disciple them to maturity in Christ. Both evangelism and discipleship are crucial, and they must be practiced in unison with each other. It is the “wash-rinse-repeat” cycle of shampoos. We draw people unto our midst so that they will hear and be saved and then we mature them in Christ daily, weekly, annually so that they will be sent back out into the streets to spread the gospel with ever increasing effectiveness and then the cycle is repeated, over and over. That brings the presence of God. That brings the favor of God upon the artifacts that make up the personal and real property of the church. When the things are being used by spirit-filled believers, they are blessed and sacred as a result of the favor of God being upon His passionate people.

These things, these articles, can become just things when God withdraws his blessing and favor from a church. Before we get all confused and divert off into a losing our salvation conversation, let us remember that we are taking favor and blessing here not about God omnipotence and ever-presence in our lives through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in a saved soul. I am talking about His blessing upon his people. Blessing and favor of God can come and go based on whether we are doing His will or not. If we are not about His business in this world then our church, and all the things in it are no longer blessed. That’s when churches begin to die – when they are no longer doing God’s will in this place that God allowed your church to exist. When we are not about His purposes that’s when His favor wanes. When we are not about seeing discipleship happen, His favor wanes. When we are not about serving the world around our church in real, meaningful, and self-sustaining ways, His favor wanes. When we are not about using these service opportunities to share the gospel with those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior, then, His favor wanes. When we are not about corporate ways of doing these things together as believers to set examples for each us individually, His favor wanes. When we are not individually as representatives as saved souls and as representatives of our local collection of believers sharing the gospel with those we encounter through discourse or through individual acts of love and kindness and justice, His favor wanes. When His favor wanes because of our unwillingness to give Him glory through doing these things, churches begin to die and our things become just things.

When our churches become about what’s comfortable to us, about what’s easy for us, and what entertains us, about us in here and not them out there, God will withdraw His favor from our churches. He will withdraw His favor and the church will die. God has withdrawn his favor before. God has withdrawn his viewable manifestation of His presence before. The slightest sliver of manifestation of His presence was withdrawn from the Temple when the people of Israel were no longer obedient and no longer faithful to God in carrying out His purposes for them in this world. He withdrew His presence. The Temple then became just a building. The Temple then became something that could be destroyed because nothing in it was no longer covered by the presence of and the blessings of God.

It is that idea of the presence of God making things holy is what I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 5:1-14, once again. Let’s read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

Chapter 5

1 So Solomon finished all his work on the Temple of the Lord. Then he brought all the gifts his father, David, had dedicated—the silver, the gold, and the various articles—and he stored them in the treasuries of the Temple of God.

The Ark Brought to the Temple

2 Solomon then summoned to Jerusalem the elders of Israel and all the heads of tribes—the leaders of the ancestral families of Israel. They were to bring the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant to the Temple from its location in the City of David, also known as Zion. 3 So all the men of Israel assembled before the king at the annual Festival of Shelters, which is held in early autumn.[a]

4 When all the elders of Israel arrived, the Levites picked up the Ark. 5 The priests and Levites brought up the Ark along with the special tent[b] and all the sacred items that had been in it. 6 There, before the Ark, King Solomon and the entire community of Israel sacrificed so many sheep, goats, and cattle that no one could keep count!

7 Then the priests carried the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant into the inner sanctuary of the Temple—the Most Holy Place—and placed it beneath the wings of the cherubim. 8 The cherubim spread their wings over the Ark, forming a canopy over the Ark and its carrying poles. 9 These poles were so long that their ends could be seen from the Holy Place,[c] which is in front of the Most Holy Place, but not from the outside. They are still there to this day. 10 Nothing was in the Ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Mount Sinai,[d] where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel when they left Egypt.

11 Then the priests left the Holy Place. All the priests who were present had purified themselves, whether or not they were on duty that day. 12 And the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and all their sons and brothers—were dressed in fine linen robes and stood at the east side of the altar playing cymbals, lyres, and harps. They were joined by 120 priests who were playing trumpets. 13 The trumpeters and singers performed together in unison to praise and give thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, they raised their voices and praised the Lord with these words:

“He is good!

    His faithful love endures forever!”

At that moment a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. 14 The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of God.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that we have visited this scene before in 1 Kings so, then, we want rehash the symbolic importance of the Temple to the people of Israel. However, we will think about one unique feature of this passage that is symbolic as well that we might otherwise gloss over. Did you notice that the priests were able to go into the Most Holy Place, the room designed to hold the Ark of the Covenant, that is within the Holy Place, the room in which the people of God could worship. The Most Holy Place after this date could be entered into only once a year by the High Priest, after an extensive cleansing ceremony, on the Day of Atonement. On this unique occasion, however, several priests had to enter the Most Holy Place to carry the Ark to its new resting place. Why the difference? The key to understanding this difference is the final verse of this passage. Prior to this moment, the presence of the Lord was not in the Most Holy Place. Prior to this moment, it was just a room. After this moment, it was an extension of God’s visible existence to His chosen people.

Life Application

This passage has two obvious implications for us as believers. First, we as churches must be about God’s business. We must not be about serving ourselves, entertaining ourselves, or doing just enough to satisfy ourselves that we are doing God’s work. We must not be about giving God our leftovers of our time, talents, and resources. We must not be about traditions becoming more sacred than God. We must not be about objects within our churches becoming more sacred than God. What we need to be about is doing God’s will in the place that God has planted our church. What we need to be about is the unending cycle of evangelism-discipleship-more evangelism-more discipleship. Our purpose is to glorify God by drawing people unto a soul-saving relationship with Jesus Christ and to disciple each one into an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus Christ. If we are not about those two things, then favor is withdrawn. The church then just becomes a building. God has withdrawn His presence from it. God has withdrawn His favor over it. It’s just a building and the things within in it, just things. What makes it holy and sacred is God’s favor over the people gathered together within it that are doing God’s will. That’s what makes a church a holy place. That’s what makes a collection of believers blessed with passion, fire, and growth, both spiritually and numerically. It is the favor of God that brings these things. If we are not growing, we must examine seriously as to whether God has withdrawn His favor from our churches. Are we doing God’s will? Or are we playing church? Or are we entertaining ourselves? Or are we a country club where only we can be here? Let us examine ourselves as to why our church now talks more about whether we are going to survive rather than where we are going to put everyone on Sunday morning?

This is God’s wake-up call. Are we living out God’s intended purpose for the church in the world? His presence will be in that church. He will bless that. There’s an old saying from a movie I saw years ago, “You better get busy living or you need to get busy dying!” Let us get busy living by doing God’s will and living out His purpose for our church and so have His favor and His presence upon and in our church. Otherwise, we need to get busy dying.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 3:15-4:22

The Furnishing for the Temple

Opening Illustration/Comments

Do you remember those days when you were a little kid, when you had done something or wanted to do something that was against the specific instructions of your parents? They had their “all the time rules”- the ones that were standing commandments within the family that were drilled into you from birth almost. They also had those specific “in the moment” rules that covered a specific situation. Examples of the former are “always stand up for your brother or sister no matter what, they are family!” That’s usually a standing commandment within most families. Then, examples of the latter are “you are not to go that party at Johnny’s house tonight!” or for younger kids, “you can’t spend the night with Johnny or Suzy because I said so.”

In these cases, we either comply or we rebel. It is in the rebellion against our parent’s wishes that kids and teenagers can come up with some elaborate stories. Teenagers are better at than little kids but nonetheless, all children create their stories of justification of why it is OK or why it was OK for them to have broken specific rules laid down by their parents. I did it. You did it. We all did it. That’s the thing that you learned from it was that a lie or breaking the rules required so much more mental acuity than did simply complying with our parents wishes. We didn’t have to lie. And the truth so is easier to defend than a life. I remember as a teenager sitting around with my buddies trying to figure out all the angles that could produce holes in our story to one or more of our sets of parents. We had to think hard about how to construct the lie so it seemed plausible. Man, it took way more time to do that than it did to simply tell the truth.

It is that way with God’s Word. It seems that in this day and age where we have drifted from God’s Word that we have elaborate stories too. It is in the areas of life where we are trying to justify that interpretations of the Bible that have stood the test of time for thousands of years that we must create the elaborate stories. Don’t you find it strange that certain behaviors that are condoned by God’s Word and thousands of years of consistent interpretation do not require any justification at all. On the other hand, behaviors that are against God’s Word (where we are trying to justify them as OK) requires lots of justification such as legal briefs, court cases, and public campaigns through the liberal media where such behaviors are depicted as normal and right. We get pounded by the rightness of what is wrong in televised, print and social media. Whereas, on the other hand, that which is condoned by God or not prohibited by God requires no onslaught of trying to change the cultural mindset. It simply is accepted as OK. No media campaigns need. No elaborate rationalizations. No theological gymnastics. It just IS right.

It is that idea of following God’s commands requires no elaborate justifications is what I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 3:15-4:22, once again. Let’s read through it again this morning, together, with these ideas in mind:

Scripture Passage

15 For the front of the Temple, he made two pillars that were 27 feet[a] tall, each topped by a capital extending upward another 7 1⁄2 feet. 16 He made a network of interwoven chains[b] and used them to decorate the tops of the pillars. He also made 100 decorative pomegranates and attached them to the chains. 17 Then he set up the two pillars at the entrance of the Temple, one to the south of the entrance and the other to the north. He named the one on the south Jakin, and the one on the north Boaz.[c]

Furnishings for the Temple

Chapter 4

1 Solomon[d] also made a bronze altar 30 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 15 feet high.[e] 2 Then he cast a great round basin, 15 feet across from rim to rim, called the Sea. It was 7 1⁄2 feet deep and about 45 feet in circumference.[f] 3 It was encircled just below its rim by two rows of figures that resembled oxen. There were about six oxen per foot[g] all the way around, and they were cast as part of the basin.

4 The Sea was placed on a base of twelve bronze oxen, all facing outward. Three faced north, three faced west, three faced south, and three faced east, and the Sea rested on them. 5 The walls of the Sea were about three inches[h] thick, and its rim flared out like a cup and resembled a water lily blossom. It could hold about 16,500 gallons[i] of water.

6 He also made ten smaller basins for washing the utensils for the burnt offerings. He set five on the south side and five on the north. But the priests washed themselves in the Sea.

7 He then cast ten gold lampstands according to the specifications that had been given, and he put them in the Temple. Five were placed against the south wall, and five were placed against the north wall.

8 He also built ten tables and placed them in the Temple, five along the south wall and five along the north wall. Then he molded 100 gold basins.

9 He then built a courtyard for the priests, and also the large outer courtyard. He made doors for the courtyard entrances and overlaid them with bronze. 10 The great bronze basin called the Sea was placed near the southeast corner of the Temple.

11 Huram-abi also made the necessary washbasins, shovels, and bowls.

So at last Huram-abi completed everything King Solomon had assigned him to make for the Temple of God:

12

the two pillars;

the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars;

the two networks of interwoven chains that decorated the capitals;

13

the 400 pomegranates that hung from the chains on the capitals (two rows of pomegranates for each of the chain networks that decorated the capitals on top of the pillars);

14

the water carts holding the basins;

15

the Sea and the twelve oxen under it;

16

the ash buckets, the shovels, the meat hooks, and all the related articles.

Huram-abi made all these things of burnished bronze for the Temple of the Lord, just as King Solomon had directed. 17 The king had them cast in clay molds in the Jordan Valley between Succoth and Zarethan.[j] 18 Solomon used such great quantities of bronze that its weight could not be determined.

19 Solomon also made all the furnishings for the Temple of God:

the gold altar;

the tables for the Bread of the Presence;

20

the lampstands and their lamps of solid gold, to burn in front of the Most Holy Place as prescribed;

21

the flower decorations, lamps, and tongs—all of the purest gold;

22

the lamp snuffers, bowls, ladles, and incense burners—all of solid gold;

the doors for the entrances to the Most Holy Place and the main room of the Temple, overlaid with gold.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that the craftsmen followed God’s specifications carefully and without exception or leeway for personal expression. When God gives us specific instructions, they must be followed to the letter. There is a time to be creative and put forth our own ideas, but when our own ideas add to, alter, or contradict specific instructions that God has already given us in the Bible. For best results in your spiritual life, carefully seek and follow God’s instructions.

Life Application

I know this passage seems kind of mundane, but to us in the 21st century, we look at this passage for the idea that it represents rather than the specifics. Here, the idea is that the craftsmen followed God’s instructions to the letter. The result was an awesome building built to glorify God. The idea for us then in the 21st century is that God’s Word is His specific instructions for us. If we follow God’s Word, the results for our lives will produce blessing for us and glory to God.

But what about free will and personal expression? God made us with free will. God made us with intellectual and artistic capabilities. We are not robots. I know that it sounds weird then to say that we should follow God’s instructions without question and to the best of our ability. How do you reconcile free will with compliance? I think that we have to drift back to our childhood in our parents’ homes to get this idea where we can understand it. Parents gave us boundaries for our behavior and if we crossed them, if they were good parents, there would be consequences. They did not stop us from being creative and expressive. The boundaries were there because they knew that bad things would happen to us if we cross the boundaries they established for our behaviors. It was because they loved us that they gave us boundaries. The boundaries did not stop us from being ourselves and being personally expressive and pursuing the dreams that God has given us the talents to achieve.

It is the same with God and us. He provides us with His Word and we are to follow its instructions so that we will have a beneficial live that brings peace and blessing to us and honor and glory to Him. He does not provide boundaries to us to control us but rather to prevent us from falling into those things that will destroy us. Satan convinces us that God is holding us back from those things that we want. We then begin the justification process and create reams of paper and lots of words to justify why that which God prohibits is OK. Whereas, simply accepting that God has our best interest at heart and complying with His Word requires no justification. It simply IS right. It will produce that which is best for us, good for us, and keeps us from short-term and/or long-term harm. Following God’s Word is right because it is truth. And the truth simply IS right.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 3:1-14

Solomon Builds the Temple

Opening Illustration/Comments

In reading this passage, I thought about how Solomon and those guys gave God the best of everything from their labor to their materials and so on in the building of the Temple. As we progress through the rest of the Bible, we see that by the time of the end of the Old Testament, the people of God had become so apathetic about worship that they gave God their leftovers for the required sacrifices. Later, in New Testament times, Jesus railed against the religious elite for having gotten so obsessed with appearances that they worshiped the rituals themselves and they seemed to worship the Temple more than they worshiped God. It is the age-old battle that we as the people of God have fought concerning the ditch on one side called apathy and the ditch on the other side called idolatry.  

Drifting Toward Idolatry

First, there is the possibility that we can worship what we have been able to accumulate and our build at our local expression of God’s people, known as the local church. You know these kinds of people and these kinds of churches. It is the people/church that believe that the buildings we or our predecessors have built are in and of themselves a thing that gets worshipped. When we get nervous when our kids get near certain things, when we won’t allow the community to use our facilities, because we are nervous about what MIGHT happen to our STUFF, then it might be that the church itself has become what is worshipped. You know those churches where you feel like you are in a museum rather than an active ongoing ministry facility. There can be that kind of culture in some churches. The question that we must ask ourselves to check to see if we are this kind of church is this? Would you be willing to have your facilities used in providing day care services to families in the community? Would you be willing to have your facilities used as a periodic or an ongoing homeless shelter ministry? The answers to those questions may reveal whether the facilities of the church have become museums or whether they are there to create a space for ministry to operate from. God intended our churches to be centers from which we reach out to the world around it and draw people into conversations about Jesus Christ. God intended our churches to be centers from which we gather together to worship and to learn and to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ. God intended that our buildings to be used for ministry internally for our people and externally for the world around us.  

Drifting Toward Apathy

Second, there is the possibility that we can do the opposite thing where we don’t care enough about the place and the activities of the church. From a ministry perspective, I have written about this before as to how we often give the church our least and our last. In Malachi 1 we read as follows:

8 When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

We read the Bible and condemn the Israelites of Malachi’s time for bringing God their least and their last to the Temple. It cost them nothing to give the leftover and lame animals instead of their first and their best ones. However, we can fall into that trap in today’s church as well. In our jobs, we give it our best. We sacrifice. We work hard and expect our families to understand that this is our career we are talking about. I must go in when they call me in. I must work on the weekend to meet that deadline. I must travel and work like a dog while I am out of town to accomplish a project. Virtually all of us are that way. We give our jobs our best and do all the things we have to do to advance within our companies. Sometimes, we lose our spouses and our families over our jobs and we are willing to make that sacrifice “because they just don’t understand how important this is.” We are willing to make great and grand sacrifices for our jobs.

However, when it comes to the church, we, as the Israelites did in Malachi’s day, give God our leftovers. We donate what we have left over and not the first of our paycheck. We volunteer, if we volunteer at all, when we can fit it into our schedule. We only participate in ministries when we have left over time for it. Further, we often will forgo volunteering opportunities without even calling our ministry leader to tell them that we are not going to be there. And, when we are there, we often do not give our best efforts because, well, it’s only church. There can become a culture in churches where you accept less than the best from people. There becomes an allowance for less than our best when it comes to our efforts for church. The, often, when it comes to our church facilities, we try to take the quick fix and the least expensive route, the “held together with bubble gum and scotch tape” approach. You’ve seen these churches too where it appears that shortcuts have been taken in construction, maintenance, and so on.

It is that idea of the extremes of idolatry and apathy that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 3:1-14, once again. Let’s read through it again this morning, together, with these ideas in mind:

Scripture Passage

Chapter 3

1 So Solomon began to build the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to David, his father. The Temple was built on the threshing floor of Araunah[a] the Jebusite, the site that David had selected. 2 The construction began in midspring,[b] during the fourth year of Solomon’s reign.

3 These are the dimensions Solomon used for the foundation of the Temple of God (using the old standard of measurement).[c] It was 90 feet long and 30 feet wide.[d] 4 The entry room at the front of the Temple was 30 feet[e] wide, running across the entire width of the Temple, and 30 feet[f] high. He overlaid the inside with pure gold.

5 He paneled the main room of the Temple with cypress wood, overlaid it with fine gold, and decorated it with carvings of palm trees and chains. 6 He decorated the walls of the Temple with beautiful jewels and with gold from the land of Parvaim. 7 He overlaid the beams, thresholds, walls, and doors throughout the Temple with gold, and he carved figures of cherubim on the walls.

8 He made the Most Holy Place 30 feet wide, corresponding to the width of the Temple, and 30 feet deep. He overlaid its interior with 23 tons[g] of fine gold. 9 The gold nails that were used weighed 20 ounces[h] each. He also overlaid the walls of the upper rooms with gold.

10 He made two figures shaped like cherubim, overlaid them with gold, and placed them in the Most Holy Place. 11 The total wingspan of the two cherubim standing side by side was 30 feet. One wing of the first figure was 7 1⁄2 feet[i] long, and it touched the Temple wall. The other wing, also 7 1⁄2 feet long, touched one of the wings of the second figure. 12 In the same way, the second figure had one wing 7 1⁄2 feet long that touched the opposite wall. The other wing, also 7 1⁄2 feet long, touched the wing of the first figure. 13 So the wingspan of the two cherubim side by side was 30 feet. They stood on their feet and faced out toward the main room of the Temple.

14 Across the entrance of the Most Holy Place he hung a curtain made of fine linen, decorated with blue, purple, and scarlet thread and embroidered with figures of cherubim.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we may ponder, “why was the temple decorated so ornately?” Although it is true that the magnificence of God cannot be adequately captured by the best of human engineering and craftmanship in anything that we attempt to build, this Temple was going to be our very best attempt at doing so. The care and craftmanship were acts of worship by those who performed these functions and those who designed the things being built or made for the Temple. However, let us remember that a simple chapel or even just a quiet place where you can commune with the Lord is a sufficient and appropriate place to pray and to meet God. As well, let us remember that it is not wrong to want to make a place of worship a beautiful place. Problems arise only when we make the house of worship, whatever that may look like, more important than who it is that we worship – God. In the opposite direction, problems arise when we give the house of worship our leftovers, the dregs, the bottom of the barrel. As you can see, there is a tension between paying too much attention to everything in the house of the Lord being excellent and fine and giving the Lord our best as an act of worship.

Life Application

I think that what we have discussed today reminds us is that there needs to be a balance between getting too wrapped up in the trappings of our churches, the buildings, the artifacts within them, and any traditions associated them and the other extreme of being “blah” when it comes to church – giving church my leftovers not by best and finest. Should we not give our church our first and our best and not what’s leftover of our time, talents and resources? Should we not set a standard that we will be excellent in everything we do in our volunteer work for our churches, in our ministries to our people and to the world around us, and in how we build, keep, and maintain our facilities.

We should have a culture in our churches of giving God the best of everything that we do. It is God that we are worshiping and representing to the world. Therefore, we should have excellence in worship services, excellence in providing services to the outside world, excellence in how we lead our ministries, excellence in participating in our ministries. God should get the same level of excellence that we expect in every other area of life, certainly as much or more excellence than we give to our jobs. We should expect that our facilities are kept and maintained in the most excellent of ways. That does not mean that we are extravagant or wasteful in our spending but not wasteful in the sense of waiting til things break to spend money either.

We are to give God excellence in everything as an act of worship. If we do these things as from a sense of we are doing it to worship the Lord, then God’s heart is warmed. If we do these things from a sense that we love God so much that we want to give Him the first and the best of everything regardless of what it is, that’s what He wants. He loves it when we love Him so much that we honor Him with the best of what we have to give in time, talents, and resources. We do these things to honor God not out of human vanity – where we want the finest and best so others can see it. We give our local church our most excellent and our best because we love God and He is the highest priority in our lives. We must approach our worship of God in this way – doing everything for Him with a spirit of excellence because we are so doggone thankful to Him for offering us salvation through Jesus Christ. We give Him excellence because we know it’s the least we can do because of our eternal security in heaven that we did not deserve but have been given as a gift through Jesus. We can never repay that but we try by giving the Lord the best we got always!

Amen and Amen.